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Minnesota Hockey: Sampo Ranta Goes Pro; Jack LaFontaine Returns!

The Gophers get their star goalie back for one more season

Kyle Cooper

The Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team got some unfortunate but not unexpected news, and some outstanding news over the last few days. On Friday it was announced that Gopher goalie Jack LaFontaine had decided to remain at the U one more season rather than signing a pro contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. He will return for his third season as a Gopher as one of the nation’s top returning goalies. On the other side, on Saturday it was announced that Gopher junior forward Sampo Ranta would leave the U early and would sign a pro contract with the Colorado Avalanche. Ranta may make his pro debut with the Avalanche’s AHL team the Colorado Eagles in the same arena where he ended his collegiate career last weekend in Loveland, Colorado.

The best news of the week game Friday when the U announced that Lafontaine would return for a fifth collegiate season and a third with the Gophers in 2021-22.

Lafontaine had the best statistical season a goalie has ever had as a Gopher this past season and added a laundry list of honors including the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, a First Team All-Big Ten selection and the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten tournament. Lafontaine is one of three remaining finalists for the Mike Richter Award, a candidate for All-America honors and one of three Gophers in the running for the Senior CLASS Award. He also was also the 16th Gopher and third ‘U’ goaltender to be named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. With BC’s Spencer Knight signing with the Florida Panthers and Dryden McKay’s future with Minnesota State up in the air after the Frozen Four, Lafontaine arguably is the best returning goalie in college hockey next season. It’s a good thing too as Gopher backup goaltender Jared Moe has placed his name in the transfer portal and will not return to the Gophers next season. Minnesota added a goalie recruit in Champlin Park grad and current Fargo Force goalie in the USHL Brennan Boynton. He will come in as a freshman next fall.

The Gophers got the bad news on Saturday that they would lose Sampo Ranta and his final year of eligibility to the pros next season. Ranta signed with the Colorado Avalanche of whom he was a third round pick in 2018. He will report to the Avalanche’s AHL team the Colorado Eagles and could make his professional debut as soon as Tuesday night. Ranta was a First Team All-Big Ten selection this season while leading the team with career highs in goals with 19 and points with 31. Ranta’s 19 goals ranked him second in the nation in scoring this season. The forward totaled 67 points (37 goals, 30 assists) in 102 career games with the Gophers.

Joining Sampo in signing a professional contract this week was senior Scott Reedy. He signed with the San Jose Sharks where he was a 4th round pick in the 2017 draft. Reedy’s official contract will begin next season but he is expected to join the Shark’s AHL team the San Jose Barracuda on an amateur-tryout basis for the remainder of this season. Reedy skated in 132 career games over his four-year career at Minnesota while scoring 77 points (40 goals, 37 assists).

Minnesota is also likely to lose a few other players to the transfer portal. Besides Moe, a trio of Gopher seniors in Brannon McManus, Cullen Munson, and Sam Rossini have entered the portal signaling that they will not use their bonus year of eligibility at Minnesota. Sophomore Noah Weber also is in the portal. He had not played a game for the Gophers in two seasons while he has dealt with injury issues.